In 2017, the Islamic State was ousted from the cities of Mosul and Raqqa, its two major respective bases of operations in Iraq and Syria. The jihadist group saw Raqqa, in northern Syria, as the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. This series looks at the future of the Islamic State after the fall of Raqqa, the costs of victory on the ground, and the outlook for Syria and its neighbors.
This week’s attack against a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, by a radicalized French Muslim illustrates that jihadis, or militant Islamists, still pose a serious threat to national security in the U.S. and Europe. But since late 2013, jihadis have also become a threat to other jihadis, regularly killing each other on battlefields across the Middle East in numbers that have observers talking about a jihadi civil war. In Syria, armed rebels affiliated with al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State continue to fight each other, while the most potent force battling the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan is the Taliban. [...]
BRUSSELS—One morning in November 2015, Ahmed Khaddine, then 25, was in his apartment in central Brussels, typing away on his computer at his desk, when the front door flew open. Before he really knew what was happening, two policemen burst in, grabbed him, pushed his face down onto the wooden floor and handcuffed him before taking him to the police station. For Ahmed, a son of Moroccan immigrants who was born and raised in Brussels, the arrest had been a long time coming. Many years earlier, during his final years of high school, he had begun attending a local mosque [...]
After seven years of war in Syria, the endgame is here. All major frontlines have been frozen by foreign intervention, and military action now hinges on externally brokered political deals. The result could be a de facto division of the country. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Russian-backed forces spent the past two years taking out isolated rebel strongholds, like Eastern Aleppo and Ghouta. Recently, they recaptured the area along the border with Jordan and territory near the Golan Heights—but at that point, they ran out of low-hanging fruit. The sight of Russian diplomats shuttling between Israelis, Syrians, Iranians and Americans to [...]